Some of the 13 people who survived a fire in Cedar Rapids early Thursday morning are recounting their dramatic escape from the three-story apartment complex.
The fire spread quickly, as investigators say it was intentionally set by someone in a hallway. Katilyn Duron told KCRG-TV she awoke to her youngest daughter’s cries, saw smoke in the living room and when her husband opened the door, they found a hallway engulfed in flames.
“I jumped out of the window and told him to throw the babies out,” Duron said. “I caught them and ran away as far as I could from that place because I didn’t know if it would blow up or anything.” Her family of four all escaped safely out their second-floor window. Another woman dropped her one-month-old baby out of a third-story window to a man waiting below. The infant was not hurt.
At least eight people went to the hospital, mostly as a precaution. One woman may have suffered a broken leg. Another woman, Jeanine Barakafitiye, said she was at work when the fire broke out at 3:45 a.m. and got a frantic call. Her one-year-old son Jayden was in a third-floor apartment being watched by her brother Antonio Mendez.
Barakafitiye told KCRG that her brother jumped out a window with the toddler and protected him in the fall. She only knew her son was OK when her brother’s phone was answered at the hospital.
“When they answered, it wasn’t Antonio, it was the nurse and she said your son is at the hospital and he’s OK,” she said. Cedar Rapids Public Safety spokesperson Greg Buelow says fire investigators and police are now focused on catching the person who put 13 lives in danger.
“We can’t underscore enough how dangerous and reckless that was for somebody to do,” Buelow told KCRG.